MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Villages (2004)
John Updike
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The protagonist of this novel is Owen Mackenzie, a character who earned a degree in mathematics in the 1950's and went on to work with computers. His first lover, as well, was a mathematician. They have "mathematical conversations" such as

(quoted from Villages)

'But Owen dear,' Phyllis said, 'the antinomies - the paradoxes - undermine classical logic, but the way they have to be phrased brings us to symbolic logic, which brings in Boolean math and the Turing machine and algorithms.'

Even when Phyllis leaves the picture, she does so in a mathematical way:

(quoted from Villages)

God killed Phyllis, as a favor to him: from this blasphemous thought he seeks to shield himself with the fancy that Phyllis, the beautiful math major, had crossed herself out the way a redundant term is dropped from the denominator and the numerator of a complex fraction.

For those interested in computers, there are also many computer references peppered throughout the book. However, the primary focus remains, as always in Updike's writings, on the sex. Thanks to Peter Freyd for sending me a review of this book.

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(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Villages
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Rough Strife by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
  2. Problems by John Updike
  3. The Central Tendency by Daniel Kaysen
  4. Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
  5. Sad Strains of a Gay Waltz by Irene Dische
  6. Casebook by Mona Simpson
  7. Of Mystery There Is No End by Leonard Michaels
  8. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  9. The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks
  10. Belonging to Karovsky by Kathryn Schwille
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Categories:
Genre
MotifFemale Mathematicians, Romance,
TopicComputers/Cryptography,
MediumNovels,

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May 2016: I am experimenting with a new feature which will print a picture of the cover and a link to the Amazon.com page for a work of mathematical fiction when it is available. I hope you find this useful and convenient. In any case, please write to let me know if it is because I would be happy to either get rid of it or improve it if that would be better for you. Thanks! -Alex

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)